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PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:15 pm 
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There are at least two online masters programs in Buddhist studies, both of which are accredited.
One is through the International Buddhist College in Thailand.
The other is through the University of South Wales in England.
Both are relatively inexpensive ($900-$2700 a year), and both are stepping-stones to PhD programs. IBC also sometimes offers scholarships.
I'm currently in the IBC program. It's pretty easy (surprisingly so), but the people are very accommodating and have good intentions, and the required readings and class notes are mostly good. I'm considering maybe doing the South Wales program also, just for 'the hell of it', to add to my resume, and to help get into a better PhD program.
As a side note, both are willing to consider admission for people who do not have BA degrees.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 12:17 am 
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Also Unisa, which is purely at-a-distance and rather cheap (being government-subsidized):

http://www.unisa.ac.za/default.asp?Cmd= ... tentID=161

Does the University of London (as opposed to constituent colleges like SOAS) still allow external study? I seem to recall that they do, but that you have to begin with the undergraduate degree. Anyway, this would be a brighter educational luminary than anything in South Africa or Thailand. One option would be to earn an MA this way (South Africa or Thailand), then transfer to a more established program for the Ph.D., assuming you want one.

EDIT: My eyes skipped over the mention of the University of South Wales. I would definitely look into that--I'm not familiar with the program, but a European university degree is likely to be better-received.

Tom:

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Your concern for all those wasting their lives in the FPMT and other such programs is rather heart warming. You may offer similar common sense fatherly life advice for those with dreams of music, art, sports etc. and it is not unreasonable advice but I think it is rather obvious that these programs are not for the mainstream.


Perhaps I am not really sold on the Buddhist teaching that samsaric activities are a waste of time, and reluctant to endorse activities which would be less than worthwhile if Buddhism turned out not to to be true (repetitive rituals, chanting mantras, "merit making", poring over turgid, inscrutible texts that "begin and end with words," as somebody or other once put it). Of course it is not my place to tell anybody what to do with their lives--which are destined to come to a screeching halt eventually anyway--but the religions themselves ought to show this kind of concern. Our religions ought to co-exist with us in a kind of symbiosis, not parasitize off of us.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 12:25 am 
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Alfredo wrote:

Perhaps I am not really sold on the Buddhist teaching that samsaric activities are a waste of time...


In Mahāyāna skills in the sciences of all kinds are encouraged because they benefit beings. So I think a lot of Buddhists were not sold on this (early Buddhist) idea as well.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 3:00 am 
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it's ridiculous, these days if you have a decent job, with the internet, free online educational resources, libraries and library loan (in the U.S), a huge market of second-hand scholarly books, you can spend a lot of time studying the Dharma while making sure you support yourself. If you want to have a non-working spouse and expensive children (expensive in the sense of $ & a huge time suck) then that's a choice you've made. From my talks with various friends it seems I have more time to study the dharma on a deep level than institutional monks and nuns.
Rory

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 3:06 am 
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rory wrote:
From my talks with various friends it seems I have more time to study the dharma on a deep level than institutional monks and nuns.
Rory


It definitely depends on what kind of monk or nun one is. A lot of times monastics are married to their institution and surrender all autonomy and free time to the community. Spending all your time doing pujas for benefactors or babysitting kids will probably not result in anything substantial. In fact you might just be perpetuating the eight worldly dharmas for yourself and others with such arrangements.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:26 am 
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I think that Monasticism in the West may have to be a bit more "service oriented" than the large institutional monasticism in the East.

But there is not reason not to have room for monks and nuns (or indeed laypeople) serving Buddhism full-time. As an interpreter I translate 3-4 days a week, plus serve as attendant and help with cooking etc. for larger courses. Is that not "work"? Or is full-time engagement with Buddhism not considered work?

There does seem to be this Protestant outlook from the side of Western Buddhists that things like studying deeply, translating teachings or texts, giving classes on Buddhism or leading meditation retreats isn't work, scrubbing and waxing the floor is work. This seems rather silly to me- I know Protestant Ministers, Catholic Priests, Hindu Swamis, and members of Hare Krishna who live their lives completely devoted to their institutions, greatly benefiting the broader membership. Rather than criticize them for it, the parishioners appreciate it.

As long as people are either making a contribution or practicing very seriously, willing to give up a lot of creature comforts that those with "real jobs" have, and aren't spending the entire day at the temple in their rooms watching All My Children, I don't see where are the dislike and suspicion is coming from. Don't we want people who are willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the dharma and people it benefits?

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:33 am 
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Religion should make a community more viable, not reduce its members to "bare branches." A life sacrificed represents a heavy cost. Questions need to be asked about how much sacrifice is really needed, and what is gained in return. (Too often, in Buddhism the benefits are imaginary.)

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:45 am 
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But is that "sacrifice" not the example the Buddha set for us when he set out from the palace and left behind the ancient equivalent of an excellent 401K?

Of course living on little is not something most can manage. But why on earth would we want to discourage those with a heart to serve others and immerse themselves in the dharma, if they are psychologically balanced and capable of making a real contribution?

Is "modern Buddhism" really going to be relegated to a part-time hobby conducted via downloads from the internet and skype discussions? Do people really see no benefit to having at least a few people engaged in dharma activities full-time around?

Even Protestants give their clergy more benefit of the doubt than you guys. I am pretty surprised people see no benefit in having a small number of people engaged full time in Buddhist pursuits.

The serious lay Buddhists I speak with mostly benefit from relationships with Lamas who for at least part of their lives were engaged either in full time Buddhist study or full-time retreat. They use their family life and the challenges of raising children, etc. as part of their practice. But they all long for the periods of stillness during a retreat conducted by a qualified master or a period of deep study in consultation with an erudite scholar. In other words, they benefit from those silly people who threw their lives away to pursue dharma full time.

The relationship is symbiotic, of course with Mahayana Buddhism there are many opportunities to integrate practice into daily life. But there is also a place for those who seek to offer their life to the dharma. How could such rich Buddhist philosophy and practice have developed over the years if no one was able to do that?

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In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:09 am 
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When Shakyamuni wandered and taught he was surrounded by a variety of people: men, women, lay people. After the Buddha's death monasticism became the primary vehicle of Buddhism, but frankly why? Control, authority, wealth, prestige. The early monks and nuns in India owned property and left wills as recent scholarship has shown. Now we're returning back to Buddhism that is horizontal - accesible, with many many people able to practice. I'm the one responsible for my Enlightenment so I'd better be the one to practice. I always give money in gratitude for teachings, but I far prefer my teacher to be a scholar-priest with an outside job, nothing like independence.
gassho
Rory

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:16 am 
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Studies have shown that people who serve religious communities work on average far more hours than people at "real jobs". To me, the idea that somehow work connected with Buddhism is not real work because it is "religious" is just plain ridiculous. If you know about early Buddhist history you will know the Buddha praised the benefits of the monastic life in Sutra after Sutra. If we want to look at the fate of Buddhism completely divorced from monasticism we need only look to Japan, where it is not faring so well.

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In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 1:14 pm 
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JKhedrup wrote:
Do people really see no benefit to having at least a few people engaged in dharma activities full-time around?


I can't speak for others, but there are two paths for full-time engagement: monastic and lay, with the lay full-time engagement being the anagarika, known also in the Mahayana through Chandragomin (gomin = anagarika). Other people may also enageg in full-time Dharma service for periods of time without taking vows. There are Tibetan teachers who have left robes and are still teaching full-time (or aspiring to and working towards).

Quote:
The serious lay Buddhists I speak with mostly benefit from relationships with Lamas who for at least part of their lives were engaged either in full time Buddhist study or full-time retreat. They use their family life and the challenges of raising children, etc. as part of their practice.


We have to go beyond married householders.

Quote:
But there is also a place for those who seek to offer their life to the dharma. How could such rich Buddhist philosophy and practice have developed over the years if no one was able to do that?


Without full-time engagement in some form it cannot.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:42 pm 
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I am just very surprised that Buddhists would dismiss the aspirations of people who seek to give their life to the dharma. In the end it benefits everyone, and no one is saying that renders other ways of pursuing cultivation moot.

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In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 3:12 pm 
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Alfredo wrote:
A life sacrificed represents a heavy cost. Questions need to be asked about how much sacrifice is really needed, and what is gained in return. (Too often, in Buddhism the benefits are imaginary.)


These days it is quite fashionable to beat up on religion. Actually, people have become quite fanatical about it. However, whatever side of the religious-secular fence we sit - we rest on superstition. And in this way it happens that where one person's assumptions lead them to see a sacrificed life, another may experience it as a life lived in full.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:35 pm 
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You may find this book of interest: New Mahāyāna: Buddhism for a Post-modern World by Ryōmin Akizuki http://books.google.ca/books?id=6zrufYh0pQgC&dq=new+mahayana+akizuki&source=gbs_navlinks_s

there's a review here http://www.tricycle.com/node/31934?page=0,5


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:31 pm 
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Alfredo wrote:
(Too often, in Buddhism the benefits are imaginary.)
Sorry man, but that's just plain old BS. The only thing that this statement betrays is your complete lack of knowledge of what Buddhism actually is. Benefit and loss are concepts that belong to the realm of worldly dharmas, not Buddhadharma. Buddhism (whether people like it or not) is the means by which Buddhadharma is practiced, promulgated, etc...

The majority of those playing the non-Buddhist charade right now only arrived at this point of their spiritual development (and have access to these teachings and practices) as a consequence of Buddhist structures and programs. It is typical of the largely ahistorical approach of Westerners (mainly Americans, since culturally they are almost completely divorced from the notion of historical development) that what exists right now is a direct consequence of what existed beforehand. Part of Western chauvinism is the belief that almost everything associated with non-Western culture is somehow primitive, unnecessary and disposable. Everything, that is, that does not pander to the boorish little western ego.

This idea of a religious fast food catering to the pathetic needs of the western ego is just going to end up producing the sort of religious junk food (new ageism par excellence) that has been slowly killing western spirituality for so long now. But the westerner is not satisfied with killing themselves (they destroyed their own indigenous spiritual traditions), they have to force it onto everybody else too.

In terms of the OP, this means that I am happy that the tulku system exists. It limits the number of crass and brash boors that would otherwise enter the Tibetan Vajrayana hierarchies and who would, in a short space of time, destroy all the beauty, complexity and sophistication of a system that took thousands of years to develop. Westerners should be excluded until westerners learn to respect and appreciate what they are being offered. Unfortunately, gauging from many of the responses in this thread, there is little hope of that happening!

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Last edited by Sherab Dorje on Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:44 pm 
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Minjeay wrote:
In fact a spiritual rule would be that you would have to leave your two Geshes instantly should you meet a better practicioner than them, and follow this particular practicioner.

That's ridiculous, there is no such rule. And if there were it would've been perhaps the stupidest rule ever.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:45 pm 
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Thread is unlocked and cleaned up, try to keep it civil!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 15, 2013 11:19 pm 
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pensum wrote:
You may find this book of interest: New Mahāyāna: Buddhism for a Post-modern World by Ryōmin Akizuki http://books.google.ca/books?id=6zrufYh0pQgC&dq=new+mahayana+akizuki&source=gbs_navlinks_s

there's a review here http://www.tricycle.com/node/31934?page=0,5



Very interesting book, thanks so much Pensum, my uni library has it and I will be taking it out this week. The Dharma needs to be liberated from all that tired ownership. I was first shaken up by Bernard Faure's "The Red Thread" which I recommend to everyone here.
http://www.amazon.com/Red-Thread-Buddhi ... 747&sr=1-1

gassho
rory

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:00 am 
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No, it's much more than the money. I don't like being asked for money all the time either, but I don't go on rampages against monastics as a consequence of that.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:48 am 
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A recent opinion piece written by Lama Jampa Thaye, Buddhism with a Western Face, which is really what this thread is about.

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Our first task, then, as practitioners who wish buddhadharma to prosper in the West, is to receive and master the inheritance of dharma. We have not yet done so, but we have made a start.


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